Mel Gibson's Fijian idyllic island getaway is under threat from local villagers, who claim their ancestors were cheated out of the land over a century ago.

The BRAVEHEART actor reportedly purchased the 21 square kilometre (eight square mile) Mago Island from Japanese company TOKYU CORP for $15 million (GBP7.9 million) last year (DEC04).

NAMALATA DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE chairman TIMOCI WAQALEVU alleges villagers were defrauded when chiefs sold the island for 2,000 coconut plants - and those villagers who refused to leave were murdered.

Waqalevu plans to hire a lawyer to challenge the sale of island which once belonged to his forefathers.

He says, "Our island was sold for 2,000 coconut plants and stories told by our forefathers are that they were forced to leave at gunpoint. There is still evidence of those who refused to leave and were killed. There is a dugout hole where their skeletons still remain."

Prime Minister LAISENIA QARASE can do nothing to stop the sale to the Australian-raised actor.

He says, "The sale was between the owner who has found a willing buyer. The government cannot do anything because it is a freehold property."

28/02/2005 14:32